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Don’t Get Duped: Key Questions to Ask Before Hiring an SEO Company

Hiring an SEO Company

How your business chooses an SEO agency is important.

But it can be pretty tricky.

Modern business demands a credible online presence.  

Yet, shysters seem to lurk behind every web page, just waiting to pounce.

This post is for any business owner that knows they need SEO but is wary of getting scammed.

The truth is:

Entrepreneurs are smart to be skeptical.

If you don’t understand our industry, your local “SEO expert” might just take you for a ride.  

Or worse yet, some shady overseas “SEO agency” may just reel you in with an irrefutable offer and then ruin your domain name forever.

Avoid SEO Scams

That’s not to say that all one-man SEOs or foreign agencies lack search optimization skills and need to get over on people.

However, plenty of them do.

If you aren’t careful, your website, brand, and business may be forfeit.

At the end of the day, you have to talk to your SEO agency, ask questions, and hash out a customized plan that makes sense.

But before you start throwing questions their way, make sure you’re actually prepared for the answers you might receive.

Make sure you start with a little introspection.

Set Marketing GoalsQuestions For Yourself

Few business owners actually understand how search engine optimization works.

So even if you’re looking for an SEO agency, the technicalities are not where you should focus.

Instead, entrepreneurs should concentrate on running their business and completing goals.

To this end, their several questions any business owner should answer about their own business before they even consider selecting a digital marketing company.

What is our value proposition?

A strong value proposition sends important signals about your business.  

It’s crucial that any online marketing you do is centered by a value proposition that sets you apart.

What does the ideal online sales cycle look like for us?

Your focal point might be an online store, generating phone calls, growing an email list, or something else.  

Your particular combination will be based on your brand and industry.

How much is each new customer worth to us over their lifetime?

Customer acquisition is the name of the game in Internet marketing.  

A real understanding of what new customers are worth helps you answer related questions regarding the budget.

What level of success have we had with online marketing so far?

Your brand’s online history is an important part of the SEO equation.  

Age is a big deal to the search engines as well as users.  

That’s why this question helps establish perspective.

What are our (short and long-term) goals?

Never forget that good SEO is a long-term strategy.  

Balance your goal timeline and always keep perspective on what is most important.  

Quick hit SEO is not the way to go.

The power in understanding these aspects of your business is two-fold:

First, any good SEO consultant or company is going to ask these questions, so be prepared to provide answers.  

Indeed, the presence of a well-designed Discovery Page indicates that a company designs custom campaigns for their clients.

Second, knowing these answers will give context to the questions you’ll be asking during the interview process.

phone interview

But before we get around to putting these questions to prospective agencies, let’s go ahead and eliminate as many unfit candidates as possible.

Prescreening SEO Services

There’s no reason to talk to an SEO who you don’t trust or already know isn’t the right fit.

So, doing research up front will save you time (and headache) down the road.

If you’re researching Internet marketing companies, it only makes sense to use the Web to screen them.  

Luckily, the modern Net is quick to volunteer information on businesses and brands.

We say your first three filters should be Rankings, Reviews, and Reaction.

Not every good SEO company will focus on all three, but if they can’t do any of these right for themselves, it’s hard to imagine they could get them right for your brand.

The place to start though is quite logical.

Rankings: Search Engine Results

It’s all about proof.

The most obvious way to prove that you can help a business rank for their keywords is to rank for your own.  

If you’re looking for local results,  you can search by your industry, ie. “dental marketing Atlanta”, “SEO for lawyers Atlanta”, etc. and see who turns up on the first page.

These “showcase keywords” are one of the primary ways search marketing companies jockey for position in front of potential clients.

However, this requires ample resources.  

Many SEO choose not to fight that battle.

And they don’t have to when their client’s rankings are enough.

Reviews: Online Reputation

For the last few years, Internet reviews have had the power to make or break businesses.

But now, online reviews are even factored into search algorithms.  

Which means that online reputation management now falls into the realm of SEO.

So when you’re looking through reviews of potential agencies, you’re also performing a basic component of the modern web presence audit.

Realize that great testimonials are the ultimate marketing tool.

For SEO, look for them on Google My Business, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Atlanta SEO Reviews

But be on the lookout for fake ones.  

Many companies see the value and pay for reviews from places like  

It can be hard to pick out the genuine article unless you know what to look for.

That’s partly where the next filter comes in.

Reaction: The “Gut Check”

One of the main things you want to do when you seek out SEO companies is to analyze their marketing at an emotional level.

good vibes good marketingHow does it make you feel?

Emotion plays a big role in marketing.

Remember that the company you choose will be creating marketing campaigns that represent your brand.  

If you don’t feel they’ll help you connect with your audience, you’ll want to choose someone else.

Many of the best SEO agencies create authoritative content designed to inform their audience and establish trust in their industry.

For example This post.

In theory, they’ll be responsible for doing the same thing for your brand.

This filter is all about trust.  

It’s no guarantee, but it is a good start.  

You still have to get the marketing consultant on the phone and:

Ask the Right Questions

The questions you should ask should have less to do with SEO strategy and more to do with legitimacy and fit.

You could almost say we’re still screening here.

Look for Red Flags

looking for seo red flagsSome questions you’ll ask to weed out shady companies and don’t listen to SEO myths.

Many of these are tests.  

You’re looking for specific answers and if you don’t get them, you know that the company you’re interviewing doesn’t practice top-tier search engine optimization.

This is where you separate the real SEO from the SEO salesmen.

Are your services cheap?

Start here because there is no such thing as “good, cheap SEO” anymore.

Today, this is the first tell-tale sign that an agency doesn’t prioritize sustainability.  

Turn tail and run.

Can you guarantee we get to the number one spot for our best keyword?

Guarantees in SEO are sketchy.  

The fact is, no one knows exactly how Google’s algorithms work on any given day.  

So promising the top spot is always risky business.

How fast will you get us ranked?

Mentioning “easy wins” is one thing.  

But legit SEO timetables are a really difficult thing to come by.  

Predictability in SEO is at an all-time low.  

Beware those that say otherwise.

How many backlinks are you going to build me?

In this case, you’re looking for shysters to betray themselves with answers like “100s” or “1000s”.  

That type of answer reflects an outdated and limited understanding of SEO.

How do you handle communication and reporting?

It’s important that you know your contact person within the company you’ll be working with.  

On top of that, legitimate agencies provide periodic reporting on rankings and other info.

Do you always follow Google’s best practices?

This is huge.  

If you encounter an SEO with blatant disregard for what the search giant has to say, run the other way.  

They are begging for penalties.  

And so are their clients.

Why should we hire you?

With this one, you’re looking for unrealistic claims not otherwise listed.  

Here, the SEO salesmen hit you with unrefusable offers.  

Open the door and see their true colors.

If they can make it through this batch of questions without raising any alarms, it’s time to move on to the real interview.

The Right FitFind the Fit

Just because they are legit doesn’t mean their business is a match for yours.

You want to make sure that they can represent your brand the way it should be.  

So you need to ask questions that pertain to your business.

 But the conversation should be open on both ends.

This is where you can expect those questions you answered about your own business to come up.  

And if they don’t, you should consider that the last “red flag”.

As you’ll notice, this last set of questions requires they know a bit about your business.

What kind of SEO work do you do?

Modern SEO is an expansive topic.  

Effective optimization plans are based on the business they are designed for.  

Some agencies specialize in one area of SEO, others do it all.

Can we see samples of work for similar clients?

If you’ve properly prescreened your list of potential SEO, you might already have all the examples you need.  

Either way, try to find someone with experience in your industry.

How will your work tie into our other marketing efforts/industry?

Any SEO firm that you choose to work with will need to mold their tactics and strategies to fit your business.  

Focus on how well the consultant integrates your vision into the answer.

How do you typically determine success?

Your marketing consultant should be looking to build on the ideas you have for your brand online.  

So when it comes to goals, you want an SEO that lines theirs up with yours.

Depending on your business and the plan your chosen expert has in mind, there may be more specific questions you should ask.

Dont fall down the SEO rabbit holeDon’t be afraid to be creative with your inquiry.  

Just try not to journey too deep down the rabbit hole of search ranking theory.

Final Takeaway

If you use this post as a blueprint, you’ll be able to select an SEO with confidence.

What you want is a tough decision between several great agencies.  

If you’ve gone through the entire process and can’t decide, return to the “Reaction” phase of the prescreening process and go with your gut.

As long as you’ve focused on finding legitimate digital consultants whose marketing strategies and expertise are compatible with your brand, you’ve done your due diligence.

If you feel that YEAH! Local might fit the bill for your business, please get the conversation started today via our Discovery Page.

Also, if you’ve found this post helpful, please share it on your social media network to help others make smart digital marketing decisions.  Or, if you have a question or another excellent question to ask prospective agencies, please comment below!

Take Over the Competition with “The Ultimate, No Fluff, Step by Step Guide to Dominate With SEO” FREE:

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How Long Does Modern SEO Take to Work?

How long does modern SEO take to work

One of the most common questions we get at YEAH! Local is:

“How long will it take to rank my business for this keyword and that keyword.” In fact, you probably found this post by searching “How long does it take SEO to work” or something similar.

It’s not surprising that this is a common line of questioning.  

But truth be told, it might not be that helpful a question to ask in the beginning-except maybe as a test.

Allow me to explain:

Any trustworthy estimate is based on in-depth research.

The more research, the more reliable the estimate will be.

So, if you ask your local SEO “expert” how long it will take to see results with them and they respond with something like “6 months minimum”-or higher-from the beginning, proceed with caution.

Indeed, a much better answer might be “There’s no telling, but…

“We Can Begin with an Assessment”

SEO Assessment in AtlantaThere’s really no way around it.

If anyone in SEO tries to give you a timeline without looking at your website first, be on guard.

Either they are a rookie or a shyster.

In the world of search engine optimization, every site is different.

Ranking for a specific keyword may take anywhere from 24 hours to 2 years depending on your site’s history, your location, and the industry.  

Plus, Google may let another animal out of its zoo at any given moment.

Before top-notch SEO consultants quote anything, they do keyword research, site audits, competitor analysis, etc.

And if they truly know what they are doing, they should be able to find a few areas to tweak your digital marketing campaigns that bring an immediate effect.

The Easy Wins

Undoubtedly, SEO is a long-term strategy.

But SEOs that are really worth their salt know how to look at the full scope of a brand’s online presence and find every possible place for improvement.

Often, the smallest things can have a HUGEimmediate impact.

Short-term and Long-term SEO work Synergistically in Atlanta

Short-term and Long-term SEO work Synergistically

Sometimes it might be a small edit to the text on a page.  Or perhaps the meta-data just needs to be cleaned up.  

There are even times when a subtle change on social media can gain your website several spots on the Google results page.

Finding these subtle solutions takes both creativity and genuine SEO expertise.

The list of tasks associated with search engine optimization grows every month.

In a major way, our industry helps to keep businesses abreast of all sorts of trends in the digital world.

Often, a website is just behind the times and needs to be brought to date, so to speak.

Just make sure you always have your sights set on your brand’s long-term goals.

Here is a great infographic walking through the details:

Courtesy of: The Website Group

Taking Search Traffic Seriously

SEO is not for jokers

If You Don’t Take Search Seriously, Expect to get KO’d in the Search Results

The Internet generates the majority of leads in most industries.

That’s why SEO brings such a high ROI.

But the fact is that there is often some waiting involved-especially if your goals are as lofty as they should be.

In many industries, the difference between the first and second page equates to a 5, 6, or 7-figure difference in revenue.

Most business owners would gladly wait a year or more for those types of results…

…if only they were guaranteed.

Most clients are unwilling to sign a 6-month, 4 or 5-figure contract if they aren’t extremely sure about the results they will get.

And we see why.  A lot of these contracts have SCAM written all over them in big, bold letters.

Shady companies can use them to rope you in with no real intention of ranking your website.

But this isn’t always the case.

Contract Signing in Atlanta GAWhile YEAH! Local never make our clients sign contracts, we know that a 6 to 12-month contract isn’t always a bad idea.

There are two reasons for this:

First, your site (or entire online presence) may need a complete overhaul in order for you to truly compete in your field.  

This invariably takes time and resources; more accurately, this takes ongoing resources over time.

Second, all SEO effort should continually build on itself.  The climate in your industry may require months or years of consistent effort to begin ranking. That’s just the nature of the beast.

Remember though, it takes a full-scale assessment to see the whole picture.

Legitimate agencies might use 6 to 12-month contracts to ensure that clients don’t get out too early.

Spending months paying service charges to never reach intended goals sucks.

Both sides of our industry want to avoid that.

Realistic Expectations

One of the most important things to have in the marketing world is perspective.

Realistic Expectations for SEO

It plays so many parts.

As an Atlanta SEO agency, it’s essential that YEAH! Local understand the perspective of both users and the search engines.

For an SEO client, keeping perspective is what is most important.

However, the responsibility falls on the agency to set realistic expectations for their prospective clients.  That’s why so many leading SEO companies have some sort of “Discovery” page or form.

“In many industries, the difference between the first and second page equates to a 5, 6, or 7-figure difference in revenue.”

By gathering a business’s relevant info beforehand, the quality and value of the initial consultation are increased dramatically.

This sets a foundation for the digital campaigns themselves as well as communication about those campaigns down the road.

An agency needs to know everything about the brands they represent.  

But business owners really only need a basic understanding of the steps involved.

Generally, any SEO campaign has several overlapping phases to it.

At YEAH! Local, we break it down like this:

  1. Research – We are “Information Architects”, so knowledge is the foundation of everything we do.  Website history, keywords, competition, industry, and more.
  2. Marketing Strategy – Based on our research and expertise, we formulate a plan specific to your brand.  We understand when it’s appropriate to shift your image, or simply bolster it.
  3. Optimization – Living up the search engines’ high standards is crucial. Optimizing all on-page factors is the first step.  This includes code, text, media, and everything else.
  4. Link Building and Content Marketing – Modern online reputation management is a multi-faceted process that takes real ingenuity.  You want to create a digital profile that establishes you as an authority.
  5. Testing – We monitor every facet of your campaigns.  Not just rankings but user experience and conversion rates.  
  6. Rinse and Repeat – As we continue to build your brand’s SEO profile, we rinse and repeat these processes on an ongoing basis.  This is the only way to stay on the cutting edge.

Modern digital marketing agencies that don’t constantly monitor, plan and test are destined to falter in their actions one way or another.

SEOs are tasked with building online trust with search engines and users.

As a matter of course, you should look for these types of trust signals when you looking for a company to help represent your business online.

Trust Signals

Before you trust any SEO company’s timeline, take a look at their own marketing.

Does it invoke trust?

trust in your SEO company

Remember, they are going to help you represent your brand online.  

If they don’t invoke trust in themselves, how are they going to do that for you?

It’s important that you understand some of the basic principles of SEO.  

But if you own a business in an unrelated industry, you’re best off not forming too many opinions.  

Internet marketing changes too rapidly for any but devoted search optimizers to keep up.

But it’s easy to think of it in terms of “The 3 R’s”:

Rankings: Do they actually have first-page rankings?

Reviews: Do they have reviews or testimonials for their services?

Reaction: How do their own branding, design, sales process, etc. make you feel?

Of course, having all three is always nice.  But truth be told, if an agency you’re interested in has any one of these three in spades, you can probably trust them enough to take a look.

If you’ve been doing your own SEO for years and have had some decent results, feel free to ask a few questions to vet out your consultant.

Otherwise, you’re best off with just a basic understanding and a healthy bit of skepticism.

Once you feel that you can trust them, give them your information.  Only then should you consider their timeline.

Realistic Rankings for SEO

At this point, it serves as a final check:

When you ask, “How long does it take to get results with SEO?” expect a reply that sets forth realistic expectations tapered nicely with an early win or two.

Want More Local Customers to Find You Online? Download Our Local SEO Checklist Instantly!

Atlanta Local SEO Checklist

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Keyword Ranking Report & Google Live Search Differ? Here’s Why…

Keyword Ranking

This is one of the most common questions I receive from clients:

Why does the keyword ranking report say I’m in position A for this keyword, but when I search Google live for it I’m actually in position B?

Or I’m not there at all?

It’s a viable question and concern.

As an SEO agency, reporting results is one of our most important jobs.

However, there are sometimes discrepancies between what’s reported and how it looks live.

This is an issue for anyone doing small business SEO.

Since there are way too many keywords to check manually, we have to use a rank checker to gather this data, and they aren’t always accurate – at least, not in real time.


In this article, I’m going to break down the differences between live ranking in the wild and what ranking reports show us.

My hope is this will clear up some of the discrepancies and help you use your reports more accurately to gather actionable data and make smarter decisions.

Let’s get to it:

What is Live Keyword Ranking?

Live ranking, in a nutshell, is the position you are ranked for a given keyword, or set of keywords, at this exact moment in time.

It’s how Google is currently ranking your website if the results were static.

Unfortunately for reporting purposes, results are hardly ever static.

Live Google Rankings

Due to new content being indexed, website authority or different pages changing, and Google making changes to their algorithm, the SERPs (search engine results pages) are constantly adjusting.

In a sense, we want it to be this way.

If you’re trying to get ranked for a keyword, you want to know there is a possibility Google will move other pages out of the way to make room for yours.

In order for this to happen, the results must be fluid, not permanent.

But it does cause a conundrum when it comes to reporting these rankings.

The report you see is a single moment in time.

Reports cannot be dynamic.

So you may get a report that says your rank for a certain keyword is A, but you check it the next day and it’s B.

This is the nature of search results.

Thankfully, there is a way you can use your reports more accurately.

But before we get into that, let’s talk about a major reason why what you see when you check your live rankings may be different than what’s reported.

Searching For a Keyword in Google

When you conduct a search, you are usually seeing personalized suggestions.

Google personalizes the search results it shows you based on your location, the device you’re using, your past search/browsing history, and more.

For instance, if you have visited a website often, that website may show up higher in your personalized results.

Personalized Search in Google

If you’re searching for a local business, like “Asian restaurants,” Google will usually show restaurants closer to you.

Why does Google do this?

Because, in most cases, the results shown are more relevant to the searcher, and that is Google’s ultimate goal.

They use the information they know about you to try to guess your intent to the best of their ability to show you what you’re looking for.

Now, this doesn’t happen for all searches.

Informational searches, such as “how to X” tend to be less personalized than local searches (restaurants, mechanics, flower shops, etc).

Bottom line, when conducting any live search and trying to find your rankings, it’s important to know whether you are getting personalized results and what type of search you are conducting.

Also, you may be seeing something completely different than your target market, so even though you may not see your page, your potential customers may still see it on their end.

How to See Non-Personalized Live Rankings

When conducting a search to find your live rankings, you need to turn off personalized results.

My favorite way to see non-personalized Google rankings also happens to be one of the easiest.

Simply open up an incognito window in Google Chrome and conduct your search through it.

Google Incognito Mode

You can also type “&pws=0” at the end of your search query, like so:

But I think using an incognito window is easier to remember.

Why The Keyword Ranking Data Can Differ

Most ranking reports show you keywords, their position, and possibly the change in position.

Unfortunately, no ranking report can show you all of the keywords you rank for unless it came from Google itself.

You can get the top 999 keywords and positions from your Google Search Console, but you likely need more than that to make accurate decisions.

Ranking reports almost always differ slightly than live rankings at any one moment in time.

Keyword Ranking Report & Google Live Search Differ? Here’s Why…Click To Tweet

They are as accurate as they can be, but it’s hard to get exact data.

Google’s rankings are changing all the time, so:

1) It takes time for these changes to reflect in the reports and

2) A portion of the report may become outdated quickly if the rankings change after it was created.

How to Handle the Differences (And The Better Stats to Monitor)

First, don’t panic if you can’t find yourself in the search results.

This is most likely a normal fluctuation and your ranking should return within a few days or a week at most.

Don't Panic About Rankings

Second, the key to accurately using ranking reports is to monitor changes over weeks and months, not days.

The SERPS are too volatile for you to get accurate data otherwise.

But if you monitor trends over weeks and months, you will get an accurate reading on how your rankings are changing over time and if your strategy is working.

However, I think a better stat to monitor is phone calls, form submissions, purchases, or any statistic which comes as a result of your rankings.

It paints a bigger, more accurate picture of how the campaign is going.

To Sum Up Keyword Rank Tracking

It’s tough not to get a little worried when the rankings you see with your own eyes differ from what the report says.

But there are many reasons why this may be the case, and it’s a normal occurrence.

The key is to monitor your rankings over a longer period of time, preferably each month, to get a long-term view of how your rankings are changing.

And when you do check your live rankings, make sure personalized results are turned off.

This will give you a more accurate look at how your rankings are looking in the wild.

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5 Key Strategies to Improve Your Reputation Marketing Today

Reputation Marketing

What is Reputation Marketing?

Reputation marketing is a specialized version of brand marketing.

Companies devote a great deal of time and resources to branding their business, with more attention devoted to digital branding than ever before.

Reputation marketing refers to the real-time brand identity that businesses capture from online comments, reviews, complaints, and critiques that come from their customers.

Word of mouth is more powerful than ever, only now it comes in the shape of blog comments, Google business reviews, re-tweets, Facebook likes, and sharing/liking/following on every social media platform possible.

Reputation marketing allows your business to take what consumers are already saying about your products or services, and leverage it for your own use, to increase your industry ratings and, ultimately, your revenue.

Find out how your reviews compare to competitors 

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5 Keys to Reputation Marketing Success

Given that reputation marketing stems from what other people are saying about your business, it’s tempting to sit back and relax.

You can’t control what people will post or change the mind of every customer who has a bad review, so you can just leave them to say what they will, right?

Wrong – reputation marketing isn’t just people’s ideas about your business that pop into their head for no reason.

Reputation marketing is the active management of your customer’s comments and criticisms to create the brand image that you desire.

Reputation marketing is the active management of your customer’s comments and criticismsClick To Tweet

Reputation marketing doesn’t need to be complicated, just stick with these core strategies to achieve reputation marketing success.

Create Systems for Collecting Feedback

Rather than just trolling around to find out what people are saying about your product, go out there and capture that information yourself.

Customers are eager to review products and weigh in with their opinions, so create forums for them to do so and collect the data that comes from it.

Some of the most effective ways to gather feedback on your brand is through online surveys, contests for users on your Facebook page or from your email list, opening your blog posts up for comments, or tweeting questions for your followers to answer.

Review Funnel

This type of data collection is priceless – it gives you a direct link to what your customer thinks.

Don’t let this information go to waste – devote some analysis to your reputation marketing strategy where you look closely at who your customers are.

Are they the same people that you thought you were targeting?

What are their buying patterns? Ages? Where do they live? Which customers seem more likely to leave a positive review?

Developing systems for data collection and interpretation allows you to tap into the great resources that are already out there via your online presence.

Build Your Reputation

Waiting around for a good reputation to “happen” to you isn’t an effective marketing strategy.

If you want to have your customers say positive things about your products and services, you need to put the time and energy into making that happen.

To do this, you need to open yourself up to what’s going on around you.

Read the comments, search relevant hashtags, or scan the internet for reviews of your business.

Once you’re aware of what people are saying, you have the power to harness it. 

Reputation Marketing Monitoring

Take your bad reviews and deconstruct them.

What specifically are you doing wrong?

If enough people have the same comments, changing the way you perform in that area can create a huge shift in your customer’s minds.

Then look at the praise your brand gets – what are the areas that you excel in? How can you strive to be even better, so you leave your competitor far behind you?

Reviews are an indispensable way to gather your customers’ likes and dislikes about your products so you can turn around and give them exactly what they want.

Market Your Reputation

Even though your customers are doing a substantial portion of your marketing for you, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue using your existing channels to communicate your brand’s message.

To use reputation marketing to your advantage when creating your other campaigns, you need to pay close attention.

This means looking at more than just whether your customers are leaving positive or negative reviews.

Drill down into the specific things they’re saying.

Paying attention to the keywords that keep popping up in your comments or online reviews can inspire your next campaign and directly address those comments.

For example, if you keep seeing the word “inconvenient” coming up in negative reviews, you can tailor your marketing campaigns or social media strategies to focus on highlighting how convenient your product or service can make their lives.

In this way, reputation marketing helps you identify a problem and create a solution to it that you can drop directly in your customer’s laps.

Reputation Marketing helps you identify a problem and create a solution to it.Click To Tweet

Manage Your Reputation

The beauty of reputation marketing is the wealth of information it gives about your customers.

To keep their comments and reviews pouring in, you’ll need to spend some time creating an incentive for your customers to engage in the conversation.

For example, you might see a spike in reviews when you introduce a new product.

However, after several months on the market, you may lose momentum and see your customers turn their attention elsewhere.

To manage your reputation and keep the dialogue open, your business sometimes has to make an effort to keep the hype going, so you don’t fall off your customers’ radars.

Some ideas for generating buzz is to create and offer promotions, special offers for your followers, host events, or offer exclusive discounts.

These tactics motivate customers to purchase when they might normally be ready to move onto the next thing.

Reputation Marketing Image 3.jpg

Monitor Your Reputation

The key to monitoring your reputation is in repetition.

This doesn’t mean reading reviews once and then never looking at them again.

The conversation is always changing.

What was irrelevant yesterday could be tomorrow’s hottest trend.

For this reason, monitoring requires regular attention to what’s being said about your brand.

This might mean a weekly or daily read through your social media posts, searching for online reviews, and scrolling through the comments on your blog or Facebook page.

Regular monitoring allows you to see if things are working or if they’re de-railing in a relatively short period.

Looking at comments once a year means that someone may have said something negative six months ago that you could have acted on or addressed, and now it’s too late.

Keeping close tabs on your reputation allows you to spring into action as soon as your customers identify an area that needs improvement.

Consumers love to support businesses who have a personal touch.

If your reputation matters to you and you make an effort to give your customers what they want (not just what you think they do), you’ll stand out in a sea of faceless businesses who don’t have the time to listen to their ideas and comments.

Satisfying and delighting your customers doesn’t require a flashy sales tactics or aggressive marketing.

What you need to do is get quiet and listen.

Your customers are telling you what they want, what they dislike, and what they love.

Now it’s your job to deliver more of the things that make them happy and keep them engaged in the success of your business.

Get our there and start reputation marketing today!

Find out how your reviews compare to competitors

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7 Data-Backed Reasons to Ramp Up Google Business Reviews in 2018

Google Business Reviews

Google business reviews and reviews in general matter more than ever before.

Consumers are turning to them more often to make purchasing decisions, they trust them more, and they’re actively reviewing businesses on a more frequent basis.

A recent 2017 study by Bright Local on local customer reviews backs these findings up (and much more).

The survey reveals some interesting trends in customer review behavior from 2010 to 2017 (the study has been conducted in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017).

However, the most important information is what this data means for businesses in the modern digital era.

The takeaways can have profound impacts on how you approach Google business reviews and review marketing in 2018.

Because Google reviews for your business (or lack thereof) are already having a meaningful impact on your business and your competitors.

In this article, I will break down 7 data-backed reasons to ramp up your review marketing this year (especially for Google).

Each is backed by a key statistic from the study (or two) and the reasoning behind it.

But first, let’s go through a brief overview of the study…

About the Survey

The local consumer review survey was conducted and updated in late 2017 by BrightLocal.

The survey digs into how consumers read and use online reviews – focused specifically on local business services (not general products).

1,062 individuals in their U.S.-based consumer panel completed the survey.

Overall, the findings provide a compelling argument for increased investment in reputation management/marketing and review marketing.

Here are seven findings that should stand out to almost any business:

1. Most Consumers Read Reviews Before Making a Decision

Read Google Business Reviews

All survey images by Bright Local

Key Statistic: 91% of consumers regularly or occasionally read online customer reviews to determine whether a local business is good or bad.

This statistic indicates a vast majority of consumers turn to Google and other online reviews when determining how they feel about a business before engaging with it.

The social proof inherent in reviews and hearing about other people’s experiences is valuable information for an undecided consumer.

Since most people are reading reviews, businesses need to take their reviews seriously.

They are an extension of word-of-mouth–meaning what people say about you can theoretically be read by thousands of people, not just individuals in a customer’s immediate network.

And these reviews drastically affect your reputation in the marketplace.

2. People Trust Online Reviews as Much as a Personal Recommendation

Trust Google Business Reviews

Key Statistic: 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Word-of-mouth has long been one of the most powerful marketing tools.

A recommendation from a friend, coworker, family member, or acquaintance carries a lot of weight due to the trust inherent in the relationship.

More people are trusting online reviews at a higher rate than ever.

84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.Click To Tweet

And this trust is equal to a personal recommendation from someone in their network.

The importance of this cannot be understated:

If word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools, and online reviews are being trusted just as much, then customer reviews are also one of the most powerful marketing tools.

But this also means they can work powerfully for or against you, depending on the nature of the reviews. (The impact of positive reviews will be discussed later on.)

Note: The perceived authenticity of the reviews is also an important factor. If consumers feel like the review is fake, bought, or has otherwise been “planted” there, this can affect their decision making.

3. Most Consumers Will Leave a Review if Asked To

Customers will leaves Reviews if asked

Key Statistic: 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they’re asked to.

A common concern among business owners is wanting more reviews but also not wanting to pressure their customers to leave them.

This statistic helps to qualm those concerns.

To ramp up your review marketing, you need calls-to-action asking for more Google reviews.

Not only is it difficult to get more reviews without asking (unless your business is gaining customers at a steady rate), but not asking for them while your competitors are will leave you falling behind.

You don’t need to shove it in their face at every turn.

Just place reminders around your store, on your website, or email and text them to leave a review of your service.

(And if you’re nervous about getting too many poor reviews, you might need to audit your service so it’s providing maximum value.)

4. Maximizing Positive Reviews Can Pay Quick Dividends

Maximizing Google Reviews

Key Statistic: 90% of consumers read 10 reviews or less before they feel they can trust a business.

A quality review system within your review marketing plan helps maximize your positive reviews.

And data shows this can pay quick dividends.


Because 90% of consumers read just 10 reviews or less before trusting (or not trusting) a business.

In decision-making terms, this is an extremely short amount of time.

It’s also a testament to just how much consumers trust the information they gain from local business reviews.

You want to make sure as many of those 1-10 reviews are positive.

If most are negative, consumers will make a quick decision which will most likely lead to them researching your competitors.

If most are positive, consumers will make a quick decision which will most likely end up in increased business and revenue.

It’s that simple.

The quicker you ramp up your review marketing (especially Google) and maximize those positive reviews, the faster you will reap these rewards.

5. Positive Reviews Can Result in Direct Lead Generation

Google Reviews Generate Leads

Key Statistic: 54% of people will visit the website after reading positive reviews.

After reading positive reviews (and usually 10 or less of them) data shows most people will visit your website.

Here, they will gather more information, learn more about what you offer, and begin making a final decision about whether or not to do business with you.

(For comparison, the study found 19% of consumers will visit the business right after reading positive reviews, and 17% will continue to search for more reviews about the business.)

This means most people go directly from reading positive reviews to becoming potential leads, where your website does the final selling.

The survey also found a drastic change between 2016 and 2016. In 2015, 21% of people would continue to search for more businesses after reading positive reviews.

In 2016, just 3% would.

So reviews have increased their power to maintain a customer’s attention and trust.

6. Consistent New Reviews Can Increase Consumer Trust

Google Reviews Increase Trust

Key Statistic: 73% of consumers think reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant.

This statistic provides insight which is twofold:

  1. If your more recent reviews are older than three months, they lose most of their trust with the market (and, therefore, their value to your business).
  2. The more recent your reviews, the more trustworthy they are (and, therefore, their potential value to your business increases).

As long as your reviews are positive, a consistent amount of new reviews can be extremely valuable.

They maintain all of their trust with the market and serve your business in a beneficial way.

However, if your reviews are recent but negative, or if they’re outdated (whether positive or negative) they can suddenly become either irrelevant or detrimental to your business.

Review marketing involves actively seeking out new reviews from your customers, along with optimizing them for positivity.

As these trends continue and consumer reliance upon reviews increases further, a review marketing plan can become a valuable asset.

7. Improving Your Star Rating is Key

Google Review Ratings

Key Statistic: 58% of consumers say the star rating of a business is most important.

87% of people also say a business needs a rating of 3-5 stars before they will use them.

Star ratings provide an overall ranking of your business based on the cumulative reviews of every customer.

It’s a quick and easy way for consumers to gauge the value of a business compared to its competitors and their other options.

For most consumers, a business must have a minimum of 3 or 4 stars before they will use them.

This should be your goal if you are at 2 stars or below.

4 Ways to Get More Online Reviews

Most businesses offer a good enough service to garner mostly positive reviews from their customers, clients, or patients.

The main issue is getting enough reviews for them to stay relevant, to increase their rankings on review websites, to gain more exposure, or to increase their overall star rating.

Here are a few ways to get more online reviews for your business:

1. Offer An Excellent Service

It goes without saying that offering a fantastic service to your customers will generate positive reviews from them.

But it will also attract more reviews because when people experience a service that blows them out of the water they feel compelled to write a glowing review.

(On the flip side, when they experience a service from hell, they also feel compelled to write a negative one.)

So offering an excellent service will net you positive reviews and more of them.

2. Ask For Reviews

As evident in the study, most people will leave reviews if you ask them to.

Many business owners simply need to get over the psychological hump of asking for a review after already “asking” for the sale.

If you’re providing a great service which provides more value than you receive from customers, you should feel 100% comfortable asking for 1 minute of their time to provide feedback on their experience.

Place reminders around your storefront/office, on your website, and send them an email or text.

You can also ask your social media followers to leave reviews.

Just make sure to spread it out so they don’t feel overwhelmed.

3. Engage With People Who Have Already Left Reviews

Most review sites allow you to comment or reply to individual reviews.

Use this opportunity to engage with these people, both the positive and negative reviews.

This shows people reading your reviews you care about people’s experiences.

This will increase the likelihood of them leaving a review (because they know you care about the feedback) and it will show people the service you provide is a top priority.

With positive reviews, simply say thank you for the review, address any concerns they might have brought up, and communicate you’re always working on improving your service.

With negative reviews, it’s usually best to acknowledge their concerns, say you will take action on them (only if you are actually going to), and thank them for their honest feedback.

4. Make It Dead Simple to Leave a Review

Many would-be reviewers are repelled from the activity because they see it as cumbersome and inconvenient.

Creating accounts, searching for the business again, and leaving the review sounds like a hassle which isn’t worth it.

However, if you make it as easy as possible to leave a review, and you let people know the process is simple, you will convert as many of these would-be reviewers as possible.

A clever review marketing funnel helps make this happen.

Moving Forward

Based on this data and the insights gathered, you know ramping up your Google business reviews is a smart move in 2018, but you need to get started. 

We’ve gained a lot of experience in the review marketing field, and we can set up a review funnel to maximize your positive reviews in no time.

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Why Link Building is Your Website’s “Best Friend” for Small Business SEO

Link Building for Your Website SEO

Search engine optimization is an ever changing and evolving beast.

The 200+ factors that contribute to how the Google algorithm perceives the relevance of a website for a specific search term is often changing.

Historically, the links pointing to a site have always held importance.

Over the last few years, the message coming from Google has been one that has tried to downplay the significance of external links pointing to a website as being a major ranking factor.

Is the power of link building a myth then or is Google just trying to pull one over on us?

Where We Have Been

One reason we have heard Google telling website owners not to worry about incoming links to their websites is that Google genuinely wants webmasters to not actively seek to build links.

Why is this?

For years, even a non-technically gifted SEO could send hundreds and even thousands of spammy links to a website with exact match anchor text and rank for semi-competitive terms easily.

Spammy Links

This does not fit in with what Google wanted to achieve-to provide the best value content to its searchers.

As the Google algorithm has advanced, the search engine giant has tried to eradicate the impact of spammy links to help a website rank in their search engine.

Where We Are Now

So the big question now is-are external links still valuable in the eyes of Google?

We used our own data and some external sources to take a look at a range of competitive key terms to see whether links still seemed to hold relevance for ranking.

We were looking for a direct correlation between external links from a range of referring domains and the power they had in terms of ranking.

For this experiment, we used a range of tools to help us scrape the data-the ones we found most effective were Majestic, Moz, and Ahrefs.

The findings confirmed what we thought we already knew and Moz had stated here. as well as Stone Temple here and Ahrefs here.

Here is a summary of our key findings:

  1. Over 99% of top performing websites had more than 1 referring domain linking to them.
  2. The number of links from referring domains and unique IP addresses correlated with higher rankings. In other words, the more websites that were linking to a website resulted in higher rankings.
  3. The number of links to inner pages of a website (the page ranking) did not correlate with higher rankings. However, the links pointing to the domain correlated with a higher ranking.

So what does this all mean?

Take look at the chart below showing the difference between what backlinks will do compared to just fixing on page factors:

Backlink Factors for Google Rankings

In a nutshell, no matter how much Google tells us link building should not be a focus –

link building still the single most relevant factor in determining the search engine ranking of a websiteClick To Tweet

What it also showed us is that while links pointing to inner pages had importance, you could still rank inner pages with less links (per inner page) than a competitor if the overall number of quality referring domains is higher.

What Is Meant By Quality?

Now we are getting to the crux of the matter and what is meant by Google when they say not to focus on link building strategies.

What Google wants to avoid (and what they want to penalize for) is manufactured and manipulated link building tactics.

They want to reward highly relevant and highly regarded links with the power they deserve.

Domain Authority comes into this somewhat but again it can be just another manipulated metric.

What is key is the Trust Flow and Relevance of the website pointing to you and the natural power that the website has.

By relevance we are talking a website about cats will link to a website about cat toys.

A website about cats is less likely to link to a website that centers around real estate.

So which link will give more relevance?

It seems simple now-but it is anything but.

The cost of building a backlink profile using this relevancy in a natural looking way is not only costly in terms of monetary value, it is also costly in terms of time, and costly in terms of experience.

If you get this wrong, then there is every chance Google will penalize your website and you will feel like the man below.

Penalized by Google

Penguin 4.0 Update and The Good News

There is good news for link building with the MASSIVE algorithm update from Google concerning the new Penguin 4.0.

Google has stated, via Gary Illyes, the following info about Penguin 4:

Penguin 4.0 Gary Illes

Bottom Line:

Google is telling us unless your site is being aggressively spammed,low quality backlinks will simply be ignored!

They will not count for or against you.

Great news for small business owners and SEO’s!

Where Things Are Likely To Go Next

The significance of external links to your website is not something going away.

Our study shows this and there are numerous other studies which also back up what we found.

The SEO scaremongers will always run around shouting the importance of natural link building (if you build it they will come)…but they never come.

The reality of it is external links are and will continue to be the single biggest ranking factor in the Google algorithm and there is a simple reason for this…

External links are the hardest element of SEO to build.

Let’s take it one step further…

High quality, authority, and relevant external links are the hardest element of SEO to build.Click To Tweet

Google knows this.

This is why Google places such a high value on these highly relevant contextual backlinks.

When Google looks at your website backlinks it will either give you credit for them, ignore them, or penalize you for them.

If you have over 500 referring domains and have a good backlink profile that isn’t spammy then the odd bad link will not affect you.

But if you have a poor backlink profile of spammy links and they are all coming from a few referring domains, then you are likely to get ignored or penalized-if not now, then a few months down the line.

How To Backlink Safely

It really takes the hand of an experienced SEO expert to assist with a link building strategy of this nature.

The use of guest posts, foundational links, and building other high-quality backlinks on trusted sources is the number one tool in a good SEO’s arsenal.

Can you rank without it for competitive terms? NO

A simple and resounding NO!

Sure, on-site factors will matter to Google-but nothing will hold the relevance and significance that a good set of backlinks will provide.

Unless you know how to acquire these backlinks in a natural looking way, the time frames that are acceptable to link out to your website, how many links to provide, the anchor text to use, the types of websites to link from, and how to assess the power and relevance of these referring websites then you are very much advised to leave the back-linking to an expert.

After all-one mistake too many and your website could disappear from the Google SERPS for good.

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The Top 10 Local Lead Generation Tips for Small Businesses

The Top 10 Local Lead Generation Tips for Small Businesses

Need more leads?

Who doesn’t

Local lead generation is the lifeblood of any local business.

Without a continuous flow of leads, you may be right around the corner from going out of business.

To help you generate more leads, we have put together a Top 10 Tips Infographic below:

Local Lead Generation Tips

D Yur Research

Bfr you vn ttmt to generate local leads, d ur research t get f dtl n your target udn.

Wh r they?

Wht r they rhng fr online?

Hw r they ndutng th searches?

Look at questions your customers have asked and work from there.

Th will help u create an fftv kwrd strategy t capture these ld.

U Paid Onln Advrtng

P-r-lk nln d r a grt way t drv hghl-trgtd trff to your wbt qukr thn SEO.

With a set mnthl budget nd some solid kwrd, u n capture f local leads wh r lkng fr ur xt products or rv n the area.

Just don’t try to go this alone or you could waste a lot of money.

Google Adwords is not an easy feat to tackle for a small business owner.

Cnnt wth Prt on Social Md

Mr and more l r ung social md t ntrt with local bun in their r.

If ur trgt udn ndng tm n t uh as Fbk, Twitter, r LnkdIn, t u profiles on th sites and start turng th local ld.

Make sure to alsooptimize your social media profilesand post daily.

Build a Targeted Eml List

Inviting your target udn to subscribe t ur ml lt n f th easiest ways t gnrt new local ld.

Gv w something f value n xhng for thr ml address you n l fllw-u wth thm.

Th is a great w t buld rltnh they n gt to know you bttr.

Neil Patel wrote a great guide to get you started.

Improve Srh Engn Visibility (SEO)

Mt numr g t th search engines to lk fr ll rdut nd services.

Yur website nd t show u hgh in th rult n rdr t tur th hot local ld who are tvl searching fr what u ffr.

If you need help with this check out our Small Business SEO Guide.

Otmz Your Ll Listings

Ll listings, uh Ggl My Business, Yh Ll, nd Bing Ll wr created fll to nnt local bun with ll consumers.

Mk sure ur ltng are complete nd optimized so they m u higher in th search rult.

Need to check if your listingsshow up?

Checkout Moz’s free platform to find out.

Edut, Infrm, and Slv Problems

Many l ur the web fr nwr to thr problems nd concerns.

A a result, mn f thm end u dng bun wth companies tht have published great ntnt tht hld them ut.

Imlmnt methods, uh blggng, t consistently publish this t f lead-pulling ntnt.

Enhn Yur St fr Conversions

Gttng traffic t ur t jut th beginning.

Th ng on th k converting th trff nt nw solid leads.

Mk ur ur t qud to k vtr lngr, as wll mtvt thm t tk action.

Gd content, vd, mg, nd trng ll-t-tn ll n mrtnt rl n btng conversions.

Check out the free tools at SumoMeto help increase conversions.

Cndr Png fr Leads

SEO tk tm t get rult nd -r-lk n be xnv for m mrkt.

But wrkng wth a high-quality ld source can dfntl hl u nnt wth mr qulfd local leads.

Th mthd is powerful in xndng your rh nd ng a rwrdng ROI.

Follow-Up wth Your Leads

Whhvr method u choose to gnrt new local ld fr your bun, be sure t keep the ln of mmuntn flowing wth thm u n convert thm nt brnd new ng customers.

Keep following up as sometimes it can take up to 7 touches for a lead to respond.

Othrw, ll f ur efforts will simply b a wt f time nd mn.


Do you have any more great tips for Local Lead Generation? Let me know in the comments below.

Also, if you like this post make sure to share with your friends, followers, and connections on social media. I would really appreciate it!

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